The National Weather Service office out of Wichita, Kansas has put together a fantastic synopsis of the significance of today’s date: June 8th, when it comes to tornado history.
If any date was to be observed as National Tornado Day in the United State it would likely be June 8th. In 1941, an F4 tornado around one quarter mile wide and possessing rotational velocities of 210 to 260 mph roared 42 miles across south-central Kansas from 7 miles southwest of Maize to the Butler/Marion county line 5 miles west of Burns. Eight people were killed, 20 injured, and 5 homes were leveled.
As reported by the National Weather Service, Kansas wasn’t the only state that got in on the action on June 8th. Many other tornadoes, some of which were much more devastating, followed:
In 1951, two tornadoes, one an F4 one half mile wide and 15 miles long; the other an F2 around 100 yards wide and 5 miles long, struck west-central Oklahoma. These are the first tornadoes ever filmed in the United States. Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries.
When the media sensationalizes the current tornado season as being somehow grossly anomalous, it bears reminding that, while the number of fatalities has been above average so far for the season, it pales in comparison to many years past. In fact, a single tornado in 1953 killed more people than all of the tornadoes combined have so far this season:
In 1953, the worst tornado ever to hit Michigan did so when an F5 monstrosity devastated North Flint. Possessing a track 27 miles long and one half mile wide and rotational velocities of 260 to 315 mph, the tornado killed 115 people, injured 844, and caused $19 million dollars in damage. This was the last tornado to cause 100 or more fatalities in the United States.
And finally, mention of the historic F5 of 1966 that devastated Topeka, Kansas. This was the first “$100 million dollar tornado” on record:
In 1966, an F5 tornado roared through downtown Topeka, Kansas. Possessing a track 22 miles long and one half mile wide, the tornado destroyed 820 homes as entire neighborhoods vanished. Most damage occurred in an 80mile long by 4-block wide track right through the center of the state capitol. There were 16 deaths, 406 injuries, and around $100 million in damage; $10 million to Washburn University alone.
The NWS also closes with a bit of a mythbusting line:
The twister passed directly over Burnett’s Mound which, according to legend, protected Topeka from tornadoes. That legend died a violent death.